COLIN CORNEAU/THE BRANDON SUN
Tara Lambert, right, and Ryan Appel helped kick off this year’s Pride events with information on GSAs, Gay Straight Alliances, during a lunch-hour speech.
For the first time in Brandon’s history, a rainbow flag is flying at city hall.
"I think it’s nice … that recognition and validation," said Ryan Appel, Brandon Pride committee member. "Saying that the city is behind us and showing that there’s acceptance here in Brandon and we are getting closer to that place where everybody is treated equally, regardless of sexuality."
The flag is up just in time for the fifth annual Brandon Pride celebration, happening this weekend.
Mayor Shari Decter Hirst said it’s important that city hall be inclusive and welcoming to all residents "regardless of race, creed, age or sexual persuasion."
"We’re always proud to fly different flags and we’ve flown them for many different organizations," Decter Hirst said. "It’s very important that we represent a diverse and inclusive community."
Brandon Pride 2012 kicked off Friday with a lunch-and-learn event at Central United Church, put on by the Sexuality Education Resource Centre.
Tara Lambert, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) program facilitator at SERC Brandon, spoke about the importance of developing gay/straight alliances (GSA).
"It’s a student-led group that has the support from one or two staff members, typically in high schools," Lambert said.
Appel, a teacher at Neelin High School, said he’s proud that his school was the first in Brandon to have a GSA.
"This GSA has been an opportunity for me to give to students what I could only have dreamed of when I was going through the school system a decade ago," Appel said. "It wasn’t until I was 24 when I finally was ready to admit to myself and to all those around me that I was a gay man."
The GSAs give students support and create a safe, inclusive environment.
"It’s that community support within your building to know that there’s nothing wrong with you, the way you are is exactly how you’re supposed to be and you’re not alone," Appel said. "GSAs are not about being gay or straight, but rather about creating a safe and inclusive environment so that LGBT students — or any students for that matter — know that they are not alone, that they are valued members of society."
Lambert said she is pleased to see Brandon become a more welcoming city.
"Brandon is definitely becoming a city that is more able to embrace and celebrate diversity and we are really looking forward to this year’s Pride," Lambert said.
Brandon Pride continues today with a rally at Princess Park from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., which includes a barbecue and entertainment.
Brandon Pride social is happening tonight at Valleyview Community Centre from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
A Pride church service will be held at Knox United Church on Sunday at 10:30 a.m.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 16, 2012